New Mexico Loses Major Education Finance Lawsuit (with Rulings Related to Teacher Evaluation System)

Followers of this blog should be familiar with the ongoing teacher evaluation lawsuit in New Mexico. The lawsuit — American Federation of Teachers – New Mexico and the Albuquerque Federation of Teachers (Plaintiffs) v. New Mexico Public Education Department (Defendants) — is being heard by a state judge who ruled in 2015 that all consequences attached to teacher-level value-added model (VAM) scores (e.g., flagging the files of teachers with low VAM scores) were to be suspended throughout the state until the state (and/or others external to the state) could prove to the state court that the system was reliable, valid, fair, uniform, and the like. This case is set to be heard in court again this November (see more about this case from my most recent update here).

While this lawsuit has been occurring, however, it is important to note that two other very important New Mexico cases (that have since been consolidated into one) have been ongoing since around the same time (2014) — Martinez v. State of New Mexico and Yazzie v. State of New Mexico. Plaintiffs in this lawsuit, filed by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), argued that the state’s schools are inadequately funded; hence, the state is also denying New Mexico students their constitutional rights to an adequate education.

Last Friday, a different state judge presiding over this case ruled, “in a blistering, landmark decision,” that New Mexico is in fact :violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education.” As such, the state, its governor, and its public education department (PED) are “to establish a funding system that meets constitutional requirements by April 15 [of] next year” (see full article here).

As this case does indeed pertain to the above mentioned teacher evaluation lawsuit of interest within this blog, it is also important to note that the judge:

  • “[R]ejected arguments by [Governor] Susana Martinez’s administration that the education system is improving…[and]…that the state was doing the best with what it had” (see here).
  • Emphasized that “New Mexico children [continue to] rank at the very bottom in the country for educational achievement” (see here).
  • Added that “New Mexico doesn’t have enough teachers…[and]…New Mexico teachers are among the lowest paid in the country” (see here).
  • “[S]uggested the state teacher evaluation system ‘may be contributing to the lower quality of teachers in high-need schools…[also given]…punitive teacher evaluation systems that penalize teachers for working in high-need schools contribute to problem in this category of schools” (see here).
  • And concluded that all of “the programs being lauded by PED are not changing this [bleak] picture” (see here) and, more specifically, “offered a scathing assessment of the ways in which New Mexico has failed its children,” again, taking “particular aim at the state’s punitive teacher evaluation system” (see here).

Apparently, the state plans to appeal the decision (see a related article here).

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